To be sure, teaching two or three days per month (Hey, I’m retired!) is much less stressful than teaching 20 days a month. Still, teaching as a substitute instead of teaching “my kids” every day creates its own set of challenges. My personal challenges include managing small instructional groups alongside independent center rotations.

###### Photos by Edunista and Arts ‘N Pix

In the pre-kindergarten to second-grade school where I sub, I’m more or less expected to teach the same lessons the teacher would if she were present. Math instruction typically constitutes a basal lesson taught in three small groups. The groups can be homogeneous or heterogeneous, defined or open-ended, depending on the teacher. The allotted time frame is generally 45 to 60 minutes.

## The Instructional Problem

After I scan the day’s math lesson, my thought is often “How in the world can I teach this lesson in this time frame, three times?”. And by the way, do that while two-thirds of the class works independently two-thirds of the time. That well-oiled classroom routine tends to squeak mightily when a sub is present!

I have no idea what was taught yesterday and what will be taught tomorrow. I’m not privy to all the assessment data classroom teachers have at their fingertips.

## The Assessment Solution

Previously, I had divided a class into two heterogeneous groups for a lesson on numerical patterns. I thought it was an improvement over the three-ring circus! Still, I felt there was room for improvement.

The next time I taught in second-grade, I had an ah-ha moment! I needed to teach an introductory lesson on regrouping for subtraction using manipulatives. I knew I could not teach this lesson three times and stay on schedule (or was that stay sane). So, I wrote two subtraction problems on the board, one without regrouping and one with. I gave each child an index card and asked them to copy and solve.

I collected the cards and was quickly able to form two instructional groups. One group Included those students who had solved both correctly. The other group included those who missed both. The tricky part was divvying up the remaining students who demonstrated partial knowledge.

(And yes, I purposely shared a typical error on one of the subtraction problems. The type of errors kids make can help guide your grouping and instruction decisions.)

Using this quick and easy assessment, I was able to teach one larger group with less guided practice and more independent work and devote more time to a smaller group who needed more guided instruction. I also reduced the amount of independent center time and rotation chaos. In my opinion, this turned out to be a win-win approach.

Do I use this every time I sub? Does it create perfect groups? Absolutely, not! It’s just another trick (or rather index cards) in my bag that’s handy to use in specific situations. Subsequently, I used this easy way to assess prior knowledge before teaching a lesson on estimating sums.

Just think entrance tickets instead of exit tickets the next time you need to form short-term instructional math groups.

What are some other ways you could use entrance tickets?

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